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7 Reasons Why Curved Phones Will Be Awesome

Gordon Kelly


7 Reasons Why Curved Phones Will Be Awesome

One word describes the overwhelming reaction that greeted the Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex: meh. Their curved designs have been described as ‘solutions in search of a problem’ while their hefty price tags and limited availability mean they don’t feature on many Christmas lists.

But here’s the thing: I think everyone who dismisses the value of curved phones is wrong and here are the reasons why.

#1. They will be more durable

While architects will go on at great length about the increased structural integrity of curves, there is a far simpler reason why curved phones should prove more durable: their screens won’t hit the ground.

Whether you curve a phone screen top to bottom like the G Flex or side to side like the Round, both theoretically protect the glass from being impacted when they slip out your grasp. I say theoretically because drop tests of the G Flex have shown the impact can still easily break the screen, but that primarily comes from the weaker plastic substrates rather than glass used in its construction. This will improve with time.

It can’t come soon enough. A poll in February by MobileInsurance (admittedly a non-neutral source) found 23 per cent of all iPhone owners are walking around with cracked screens, so a form factor that inherently better protects it is a huge advantage. And that’s without mentioning the obvious reduction in day-to-day scratches.

SEE ALSO: 5 best cheap smartphones you can buy


#2. They make big screens easier to use

Less face it, phone displays are getting bigger. This is fuelled by our changing usage patterns, which are less focused on phone calls and more on media consumption. The problem is our hands won’t grow to keep up and for most the explosion in 5-inch devices and beyond is a stretch our fingers can’t quite make.

Curved screens address this by bending these hard to reach corners closer to us and that makes hitting the edges and one-handed typing that little bit easier. It won’t solve the problem for anyone with very small hands, but we should embrace every advantage we can get to make big screens easier to use.

#3. They are better for media consumption

Furthermore all this content we are viewing in our phones will look better on a curved screen. The curves are gentle, so any sense of distortion is virtually eliminated, but more importantly curved screens greatly reduce visible reflections and offer greater privacy. The latter is only a problem when crowding people around your phone to view something, but do you buy phones based on whether they create a better experience for you or an occasional audience?

Furthermore the gradual rise of curved TVs is based on testing that found they offered a more immersive experience. We’ll benefit from that on our curved phones while critics who cite the reduced viewing angles curves bring to TVs for large get togethers have no leg to stand on when it comes to phones.

SEE ALSO: 10 best phones you can buy

#4. They can improve call quality

LG G FlexHere’s a shocking revelation: your face isn’t flat. This is why land line phones traditionally curve to conveniently fit both your ear and mouth and now your curved phone will as well. Of course in being flat for so long smartphone technology has adapted so the distance of a microphone a few inches from your mouth isn’t a major problem, but it still means smartphones are generally terrible for picking up environmental noise.

Curved phones give R&D departments a helping hand. By keeping both the earphone and mic closer to their intended targets better noise cancellation and isolation technologies can be developed. If long-term that can teach people they no longer need to bellow into their handsets in public places, curved phones will have made the world a better place.

#5. They are more comfortable in hand

Furthermore while you’re speaking on your phone, playing a game, surfing the web or any of the thousands of things you can do on a modern smartphone you’ll also find you are doing it more comfortably with a curved phone.

You only need look at the design of landline phones and games console controllers to know curves fit our hands better. You can also get a better grip on a curved phone, so we shouldn’t drop them as much as the slabs currently in our pockets.

#6. They will bring new functionality

Tilt the Galaxy Round on a table and it will show you the time, date and any notifications you may have. Samsung calls this the ‘Roll Effect’ and while the implementation on the Round is a little slow and limited, there is no doubt that the combination of accelerometers and gyroscopes in modern phones can find some ingenious, context sensitive ways to take advantage of this movement.

Tilt to reject or answer a call on speaker phone, tilt to snooze an alarm, tilt to respond to a specific audio alert, tilt to play/pause music and much more make sense. Apple, Microsoft, Google and third-party developers should have a field day.

SEE ALSO: 10 best Android phones in 2013

#7. They will drive the screen tech for other devices

Like it or loathe it, smartphones appear to have become the testing ground for most consumer focused tech innovation. Everything from touchscreens and finger friendly user interfaces to compact cameras and the growing trend for incredibly high pixel densities have come through their evolution in smartphones.

Curved screens will be no different and since they will be extremely important in wearable tech, most notably smartwatches, take up in phones can drive their maturation and miniaturisation for the benefit of other devices.

Change is coming...

Make no mistake there remain problems with curved phones. Notably their components aren’t all curved inside yet, which can lead to reduced battery sizes (as seen in the Galaxy Round compared to nearly identical Galaxy Note 3), they will wobble on surfaces in planes, trains and cars and at the moment they carry a price premium.

That said, it seems the change is coming. Televisions, monitors, wearables and phones are all areas curved technology is being pushed and latest rumours even suggest Apple is toying with making a curved screen iPhone (possibly to justify an increased screen size?).

Consequently this may be a revolution that is hard to avoid, so try to keep an open mind.


November 25, 2013, 1:39 pm

Definitely agree current smartphones are hardly the ideal shape for making calls, comfortable holding or robustness.

My cherished Nexus 4 vibrated itself into an early grave, slipping off a (lower than knee height) bedroom side table and presumably landing at an awkward angle, thus smashing the screen to unusable smithereens.

Google's Nexus 4 phone obviously had significant design faults from the start, as the internet and all the hundreds of photos/threads and discussions will testify. It's an expensive repair due to both the screen design (incorporating the touch sensitive digitiser) and lack of accessibility (the whole phone has to be dismantled from the back to the front to get at the screen).

Of course, having a body design based on apparently thin glass to improve looks didn't help either. So, it would be nice to have more durable phones for sure. I've learned my lesson and have opted for a phone case for my current mobile but ideally you shouldn't need one.

Having flexible, naturally curved, waterproof phones to fit our faces would be a good move. I'm less sure of the benefits curvature brings for privacy, immersive effect but there is definitely a sweet spot in screen size and shape for typically sized adult hands. I think the Galaxy S4 nails it as someone with averagely sized man hands. It's importantly, not too wide and though its a little tall for optimal thumb stretching comfort, that's not such an issue due to a lack of need to stretch that far (notifications bar slides down nicely from a wider area of sensitivity). It's easier to use than my dearly departed Nexus 4.

Add longer battery life to phone durability, flexibility and improved ergonomics and call quality then we'll see some interesting changes to future phones/portable media consuming communication devices. ;)


November 25, 2013, 3:40 pm

IMO, curved screens almost guarantee glare on the screen! Picture this: flat screen with a spot of glare, you angle the screen slightly to the left, the glare disappears. Curves screen, you have a line of glare on the screen so you tilt the phone to the left, the glare moved to the right. you tilt the screen further and the glare moves further to the right but is still on the screen.

This is not hypothetical, this is a complain a coworker had about his curved Nexus S that I saw for myself.

Granted, the glare "strip" is far smaller than a glare spot, but it is harder to avoid in the first place...


November 25, 2013, 6:00 pm

"Curved screens address this [large screen size] by bending these hard to reach corners closer to us..."
Yes, but curved screens make large screens easier to reach across with the thumb in the same measure that they make them project a smaller image to the eye. That is hardly a win. It is no more effective than having a correspondingly smaller flat screen.


November 25, 2013, 6:08 pm

"Televisions, monitors, wearables and phones are all areas curved technology is being pushed..."
I'm sure you're correct, and it is a worry that what might suit one application (eg curved monitors) is then pushed out willy-nilly to other applications (eg mobile phones) purely because it is the latest thing, even though what made it a good idea for one application is irrelevant or completely contrary in the other application. A bit like "wide screen" - great for the cinema, useless for most PC tasks. Incidentally, perhaps you could plug a gap there, and make your new website actually capitalise on the widescreens we all have foisted upon us?


November 25, 2013, 6:21 pm

"If long-term that can teach people they no longer need to bellow into
their handsets in public places, curved phones will have made the world a
better place. "

That would be a blessing. I think people bellow when they are in a noisy environment, feeling that they have to shout louder to be heard over the ambient din and ignoring the fact that the noise cancellation would reduce that ambient noise to the other party. Paradoxically, by bellowing into their phones the inevitable
result is distortion from their mic, leading to the other party asking
them to 'say again', at which point they bellow even louder.


November 25, 2013, 8:04 pm

I'm just picturing someone putting this in their pocket the wrong way and sitting on it... Flexible phones are great. Rigid curved phones not so much...


November 25, 2013, 9:08 pm

I'm not sold - seems a bulkier ride in my pockets or pack - but the first good article I've seen on why one might want it.


November 25, 2013, 9:20 pm

If the curve of the phone is from side to side, it may be easier to hold but not if it is from top to bottom and it would hardly make a difference for someone with small hands anyway. You also miss the downside of texting etc. when the phone is lying on a flat surface (like a table.) I find on my HTC One that a good cover protects it against accidental damage and I think that finding a leather cover to fit these myriad of shapes an unlikely scenario. You can tell that I am not convinced and until we reach the stage where a phone can be folded without damage, it has about the same prospect of succeeding as 3D Televisions have.


November 25, 2013, 10:41 pm

A phone that rocks back and forth when I put it down? No thanks.

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 1:52 am

I do point this out as an obvious downside. Depends if that's a deal breaker given all the other benefits.

Also surely this only applies when you're putting it down somewhere the surface is moving? They don't rock more than once or twice on a steady surface.

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 1:55 am

I find both curves side to side and top to bottom both easier to hold - both fit better to the shape of your hand that a flat phone.

I'm sure numerous covers will be out for all shapes and sizes of phones just like today, curved or not.

Unlike 3D TVs curved phones are real benefits: durability, comfort, easy of typing, viewing experience... those are interesting benefits to dismiss.

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 1:56 am

Thanks. They have a lot of convincing to do, but there are certainly some clear benefits. Btw a side to side curve like the Galaxy Round would fit better in your pocket than a flat phone - unless you have flat thighs? :)

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 1:58 am

If you put a curved phone in your pocket the wrong way round I'd like to think you'd notice pretty quickly. Also I'd suggest never putting a phone in your back pocket - it is what thieves live for.

As such I think the curvature of the Galaxy Round rather than the G Flex will win out long term - fits beautifully in a front pocket... the right way round!

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 1:59 am

We sing from the same hymn sheet. Now if only we could communicate this to about a billion people... :)

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 2:01 am

Agreed, new technology does tend to get pushed into all areas to see where it sticks - but there's a lot of application for curved screens.

Personally I love widescreen monitors as I work with windows side by side most of the time.

I'm afraid I can't help with the site. I'm freelance. But I did see Andy mention in comments elsewhere that a responsive design is in the works.

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 2:03 am

You'll be losing tiny fractions for the curves visually - they aren't U-bends :)

Conversely you'll actually gaining significantly as those 'just too far to reach' corners on 5in screen are once again easily accessible.

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 2:07 am

It like the theory and I know you reference the Galaxy S, but in practice tests conclude it doesn't work like this.

The curve reduces the amount of screen visible to glare by shielding it. With a flat screen phone you find yourself searching for the one spot glare doesn't affect it... this problem is reduced by the curve. This is a widely evaluated topic, a Google search will bring up a lot more on it.

Gordon Kelly

November 26, 2013, 2:09 am

I lost a Nexus 4 the same way... flat surface, 50cm from the ground and smashed the screen. Expensive repair and a slippery sucker. Even repaired I found the glass to be extremely fragile and I picked up numerous scuffs and chips.

So far I've found my Nexus 5 to be far better. Not a scratch after a month and the back is vastly better to hold. It is well worth the upgrade (personally TouchWiz is a deal breaker for me) and hopefully the Nexus 6 will bend!


November 26, 2013, 10:07 am

I definitely don't understand how the curve can *shield* from glare.... glare is the reflection of light sources into the viewers eyes, any light sources that would be shielded by the curve of the screen will be so obtuse to the "plane" of the screen that even a flat screen would not reflect that light towards the user... The only way a curve would reduce the glare effect is by making spot sources a thin strip of glare covering a smaller percentage of the screen.

I accept that this has probably been extensively evaluated, I just can't get my head around it!


November 26, 2013, 3:25 pm

Yeah, slippery as a wet bar of soap. That's the Nexus 4. I used to have a protective film front and back on it from day one but it got scraggly and unkempt looking so I removed it and then found just how slidey it truly was. I forgot about that.

How much did you pay for your Nexus 4 repair then? I've investigated but found it kind of prohibitively expensive, between £110 screen/frame DIY option and c. £140 get someone competent to do it for me. It was a 16GB capacity model too, which was a little low in space really. It broke a couple of days after the Google PlayStore Nexus 4 price reductions had sold out.

I get you on the vanilla Android thing. That's a large part of why I opted for the Nexus. To be honest though, there are some good features of TouchWiz - well, the notification bar icons for rapid switching off/on of radios like wifi, bluetooth etc. I'm using Nova Launcher instead of full fat TouchWiz with all the other Galaxy stuff turned off. Gotta say it's a step up from the Nexus 4 for sure but I'd have liked to have seen what the Nexus 5 was like for sure. Happy with the S4 though, the screen is really good quality surpassing the Nexus 4 and ergonomically it's a lot better. Raw Android would still be nice though the Nexus certainly had its fair share of quirks the S4 addresses (though it adds far more of its own).

Bendy phones FTW. Agreed!


November 26, 2013, 5:45 pm

You seem to be implying that by bending the screen it becomes smaller to the thumb than it does to the eye, hence bending it manages to reduce the physical reach whilst substantially maintaining the visual size.

But my point is that the reduction in reach and the reduction in apparent visual size are in a 1:1 ratio. The benefit in one measure is the same as the loss in the other.

So if your problem is that a large screen is too big to reach across, making it smaller, or bending it to fit within a smaller frame, both have the same result. Surely just making it smaller is the simpler solution, whilst bending it is just a fancy?


November 26, 2013, 5:49 pm

I often use mine as a calculator (excellent App, RealCalc by Quartic Software, no association). Fortunately my phone sits flat and stable on the table. A banana shaped phone would drive me bananas!


November 26, 2013, 6:48 pm

Only time will tell whether the 'benefits' you mention will convert current smartphone buyers to the new curved screen variety, but initial sales figures for the Samsung Galaxy Round in South Korea indicate that people (like me) do not seem too convinced; with a meagre 10,000 units allegedly being sold.


November 27, 2013, 5:44 am

number one reason would be that you can sit on them in your back pocket without causing back pain. One of the main causes of back pain these days are sitting unevenly on a flat surface.


January 28, 2014, 7:54 pm

Only point #1 makes any sense. Curved screens for small devices is totally useless & ridiculous. Please spend time and resources on more useful innovations like a phone screen that expands for use and collapses/shrinks when not in use or being stored, batteries that last weeks, or charge from your body heat/movement.

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